Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Ah, September: Time for New Year's Resolutions!

Happy New Year!

Well, sort of. It seems to me that September is the time of year that those of us affiliated with academe make our new year’s resolutions. Sure, January is fun in that over-rated already-eaten-too-much-over-holidays kind of a way. But September! New courses, new faces, new shoes. And, if you’re anything like me, a new opportunity to think about what I want to accomplish. (Or, perhaps, what I did last year that I’d like to avoid…)

This is the first year that I’ll be teaching in the same city as last year, which means I have the unfamiliar luxury of familiarity. This year I don’t have to join the lines of new students to get my identification card and—happy day!—I know where all my classrooms are located. I am teaching quite a bit this year, however, and if I intend to get any writing and research of my own packed in I’ll need to be vigilant. I’ll need a plan. I’ll need New Year’s resolutions.

Limit lecture preparation time:

I’m on a teaching contract, which, for me, means I teach five days a week six half-courses a year. I’ve been known to spend a ridiculous amount of time planning lectures. While I haven’t been teaching for very long I do know that the amount of time I spend on lecture preparation is not proportionally related to how good the lecture is (or isn’t, as the case may be). Give yourself a limit and aim to stick to it.

Set a clear, prioritized time for your writing:

We all need time for our research, and yet it seems that for many of us it is the last in our list of priorities—though always, always, on our minds (even on vacation). Your research matters. Give it a minimum of 30 minutes of your time. Do it!

Stop answering your email after 6pm:

Or some time. Because after all, you do need to unplug. As one of my favorite bloggers asks, how much productive time do you spend when you’re on your computer?

Make time for eating well:

Does this really need explanation? Cooking is one of my favorite relaxations in the day. Even if it is simple fare you and your busy life need some nourishment.

Schedule time for exercise:

Whether it is walking to the office, doing 6am yoga, training for a half-marathon, or walking to the library. Movement allows kinesthetic thinking.

These are mine! What are yours?

5 comments:

  1. When I started my new job at CBU, I adopted the position that if I couldn't generally do my job within normal work hours, it wasn't the job for me. There are certainly crunch times, but for the most part committing to this idea gives me permission to be satisfied with what I accomplish each day and helps me escape the guilt of unfinished work.

    One of my key tactics is that I don't answer work related emails outside of work hours, especially those from students. Not only does it model immoderate tech use, enable dependance, and lead students to think I'm always available, but it also feeds an ego loop that let's me think I am crucial to every situation. If I don't answer a query about MLA citation until I have time during work hours, there's a good chance the student will figure it out for herself, which is better for us both.

    Finding research time, now... I think I'll join you on that resolution. As soon as I've finished knitting doilies for the student info table and baking cookies for the department meeting...

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  2. SC -- great idea on the email front. You know, I had a similar 9-5 routine that I got started in grad school. It was the thing that kept me sane while studying for my comps. And it keeps me sane now.

    My resolution? To really stay on top of my email, actually, and not leave it forever waiting for some undetermined 'better time.' I think I'll have a set time for email every day.

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  3. As a student, I think that a lot of those resolutions also work for us. Setting time to unwind, setting time to relax, eating properly (or as properly as one can afford), exercising, and setting priorities.

    I know that I have had to spend this week setting up for a return to school. Making promises to myself that I will finally score that A in all my classes for once. I will not be a procrastinator who puts that English essay off until the night before, and pushes out 12 pages in 4 hours, and then feels guilty about it because I could have easily scored an A, and instead got that B, or even worse...a C.

    So perhaps this year I'll luck out and land a good instructor in most of my courses. However I really doubt it. I guess I should look forward to long nights, and lots of reading, followed by repeated visits to my instructors office hours, while never actually getting any extra instruction out of those visits.

    However, "limited lecture prep time" works for us students as well, sometimes its wasted effort to read that whole text book the week before class. "prioritized research and writing", that's pretty global for all of academia i think. "stop answering emails after a certain time" could be adapted to mean do your homework and stay off facebook after a certain time...or before a certain time.
    The last two are also global for all humans so. Yes.

    I feel as if i have rambled perhaps?

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  4. @Cheryl: Wonderful to hear from you! I hardly think reflexive engagement counts as rambling. Rather, thank you for rethinking my goals in terms of how they might work for students. Your adaptation of my personal goals is really insightful: In my experience students struggle with knowing how much is enough preparation, and how much is too much (or too little, but that's another story). You're right, sometimes it is far more useful to work your way through the text but realize when it is time to leave it for class discussion.

    I'm really hoping you land good instructors in all of your classes...

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  5. @SC: I completely agree: the 9-5 works for me as well (with notable suggestions as you underscore).

    @digiwonk: Oh email... I agree that answering sooner seems to be better, but as SC notes answering too quickly can create more work at times. Setting aside dedicated times seems a good goal.

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